Cross Examination

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

This is the way some people examine the cross of Christ: Jesus’s death was a tragic ending to a beautiful life. Jealous and powerful people who were threatened by his popularity cut short his life. Jesus regularly squared-off against the Pharisees and his teaching inspired people more than theirs did. The conflict resulted in a power struggle and ended in a bloody but unnecessary execution.

Furthermore, Jesus was the greatest teacher of all times and we should model his principles. He loved his enemies, even those who crucified him. For that reason the example of his life is worth following.

These cross examiners go on to tell us Roman crucifixion was an inhumane way of dealing with criminals and insurrectionists. We are more enlightened today and do not practice such torture and cruelty. We shouldn‘t focus so much on the way Jesus died but that he died, and more importantly, that he lived an extraordinary life.

While these are nice, sentimental thoughts about Jesus and his cross, they miss the whole point of his death. Jesus’s death was not an accident. Jesus himself knew that his mission would take him all the way to the cross. The tragedy was not that Jesus was crucified against his will but that we willfully sinned against a holy God, necessitating a just penalty.

Jesus died on the cross for us. The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22), and we are “justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:8). A more humane way of execution like lethal injection would not have been enough to pay the price for our redemption and accomplish God’s eternal purposes. Like it or not, God required blood and he willingly sacrificed his own Son’s.

The cross is not something we should explain away, nor is it merely a symbol of a selfless life. There is no need to hide its grotesqueness, smooth over its rough hewn edges, or soften the way the nails split open Jesus’s hands and feet, shooting pain through his body as quick as lightening. The cross is ugly and wondrous at the same time. It is bloody and beautiful. It is all at once painful and the perfect plan of God.

That is why the apostle Paul boasted in the cross of Christ alone. What about you?